Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Tempest over the Bismarck

The current flap between the British and the Germans over who or what sank the famed German battleship, the Bismarck, 61 years ago misses the point.

The British maintain that it was their guns that sent the world's most feared warship to the bottom of the Atlantic in 1941. German survivors said all along that, in their tradition of not letting the enemy capture a vessel, they scuttled it.

The Bismarck went down in three miles of water some 600 miles off the coast of France on May 27 that year. Its destruction buoyed British spirits like nothing else in a war to which they could see no end. So their patriots weren't too happy with the news from underwater explorations that found no major damage from enemy shells anywhere on the sides of this ship's hull.

Alfred McLaren, a naval expert, retired submariner, and emeritus president of the Explorers Club in New York, is not alone in opting for the German version. Robert Ballard, whose business is discovering sunken ships, leans toward the scuttling theory as well.

James Cameron, who directed the movie Titanic, last spring explored the Bismarck with robots. He found areas where torpedoes hit, but said they never penetrated into the ship's interior, hence they could not have sunk it.

British patriots are resentful of the evidence today's scientific capacity has laid on their doorstep. They are calling the findings “claptrap” and “revisionist.”

This is a phony tempest in a little teapot.

Whether British guns got the vessel or whether the power of the British attack scared the German sailors into scuttling this great ship, it remains a British victory. There is no doubt that British torpedoes hit the ship, though apparently not fatally. There is no telling they would or wouldn't have been successful had the Germans themselves not helped the process along.

So what?

Had it not been for the fury of the battle, a fight in which the British clearly emerged victorious, the Bismarck wouldn't have slipped under the waves that day.

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